Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Your Rights Online

EU Says No To Software Patents 525

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the break-out-the-champagne dept.
Moggie68 writes "European parliament has . struck down the proposal for a directive that would have brought US-style software patents into EU." Here's another story on the decision.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

EU Says No To Software Patents

Comments Filter:
  • Victory! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Christian Engstrom (633834) <christian...engstrom@@@piratpartiet...se> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:57AM (#12993248) Homepage
    This is almost a total victory for the opponents of software patents.

    The patent lobby tried to sneak in software patents through the back door, by claiming that it was only about harmonization, that the directive wouldn't change anything, etc, etc. They failed.

    The issue has led to the most intensive lobbying campaign ever in Brussels (from both sides). Whatever their position on the issue "as such" may be, there is not a single member of the European Parliament who now thinks that this is "just a small technical matter that can safely be left to the patent experts to decide on".

    If the patent lobby wants to continue working for the legalization of patents on software and business methods (and they will), they will have to engage in a serious debate about the benefit/harm of such patents. And since they don't really have any arguments that can stand scrutiny in daylight, they will have a very difficult time.

    Sure, the FFII would have preferred a directive that reaffirmed the ban on software patents in Article 52 [european-p...office.org] of the European Patent Convention, and led to greater harmonization in Europe. Alas, that didn't happen, because the patent lobby got cold feet and preferred to kill the directive rather than risk a vote in Parliament that they would probably have lost.

    But at least we didn't get a bad directive that wiped out Article 52 and forced national parliaments to introduce software patents against their will. The situation now is that software patents are illegal in Europe (as they always have been according to the EPC), but that we still have a European Patent Office that needs to be reined in so that it starts to follow the law.

    But the law remains unchanged, and computer programs and methods of doing business are not considered patentable inventions.

    Today was a great day in the battle for a free and open information infrastructure, and for a favorable business environment in Europe for enterprises that use or produce software.

    • Not quite (Score:5, Interesting)

      by James_Duncan8181 (588316) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:01AM (#12993297) Homepage
      The fact that the law was rejected rather then modified means that the existing patents are still in a legal grey area - look forward to a lot of pressure being put on national governements to pass legislation.

      The UK PTO in particular has quite a hard on for patenting, and it is a UK Labour MEP who has been pushing hardest for patents.

      • Re:Not quite (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MoonFog (586818) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:04AM (#12993331)
        May be true, from the BBC:
        "Patents will continue to be handled by national patent offices ... as before, which means different interpretations as to what is patentable, without any judiciary control by the European Court of Justice," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, representing the EU head office at the vote.

        At least it shows that politicans do not just blindly follow. If this continues, it will be difficult for national politicans to accept something the EU has rejected (more than once, this was a re-write wasn't it?)
      • Not quite - bis (Score:5, Informative)

        by da5idnetlimit.com (410908) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:22AM (#12993493) Journal
        Also, if the law was rejected, it is because a few ppl had a large bunch of amendments ready that would have "denatured" (in the view of large software companies) the adventage software patent could have given them...

        see The Register article here :
        "According to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, conservative MEP Klaus-Heiner Lehne is trying to establish a majority of MEPs to vote for a rejection of the Council's "Common Position", even before any amendments are discussed.

        The FFII says it is no coincidence that supporters of the Common Position, like Lehne, are now calling for the directive to be dropped. It claims that parliament is close to establishing a majority of MEPs in support of the amendments tabled by Michel Rocard. The amendments would put limits on patentability, it argues, and so the directive should only be rejected if the 367 votes needed to pass the changes cannot be found."

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/05/patent_dir ective/ [theregister.co.uk]

        So in effects the cancelling of the law is not so much a victory as a move by the opponents to pospone the problem until they have a better chance of passing it under their own terms, US style....

        Also I totally agree with your view on the grey area actual patents are in, but article 52 http://www.european-patent-office.org/legal/epc/e/ ar52.html [european-p...office.org] of patent bureau clearly says that purely software patent are not to be, and that should be enough to cancel the existing ones....

        We just need someone to enforce the existing rules....which is an other problem altogether...
        • Re:Not quite - bis (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cortana (588495) <{sam} {at} {robots.org.uk}> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:43AM (#12993676) Homepage
          Everyone needs to be aware of these facts. Every news story about these events should make it clear that this is not a total victory for the anti-pure-software-patent crowd.

          Microsoft, Nokia and co will try again, in a few years time. Except that they won't do anything as overt as trying to pass a pan-European directive. They'll work quitely, behind the scenes, on the ministers of individual European governments. Pure-software-patents will be legalised, once country at a time.

          Once this process is complete, they may then go for another pan-European directive, that really would merely 'harmonise' the EU countries' patent laws. Only by then, it will be to late, since the damage will have already been done at the level of individual countries.

          Don't let it get that far. Keep your ears open and stay on the lookout for any pro-pure-software-patent legislation that may reach your parliament.

          #include
      • Re:Not quite (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dogtanian (588974)
        Can anyone post a link to a good article outlining exactly what is and isn't legal in the UK WRT software patents?

        My understanding is that quite a lot of this can get through the back door, although whether this means a lot of it would stand up in court is unclear.
        • Re:Not quite (Score:3, Informative)

          by dehuit (57744)
          Can anyone post a link to a good article outlining exactly what is and isn't legal in the UK WRT software patents?

          Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has quite useful information as usual. In particular, it addresses the issue of art 52.3 that I left out ( a few posts up someone also mentions this ): the as such provisio, that leads to the dreaded discussion about whether software is 'technical'. No UK lawsuits are mentioned though, and I can't find any.

          52.3: The provisions of paragraph 2 shall exclude patentability of the s
    • Re:Victory! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zaxios (776027) <zaxios@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:01AM (#12993298) Journal
      Today was a great day in the battle for a free and open information infrastructure, and for a favorable business environment in Europe for enterprises that use or produce software.

      Not just that, but it was a great day for European democracy, with the EU's elected body asserting itself totally over the unelected, untransparent Council.
      • Re:Victory! (Score:3, Insightful)

        I believe the real crooks here are the Commission, not the Council, but your point is just as valid in that case.

      • Democracy in the EU (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wflynn (869979)

        The council is composed of the ministers of each member states. So to say it is undemocratic is the same as saying the elected governments in each state is undemocratic.

        The commission is more like the civil service in member states, it's members are apointed by the member states governments. I do not know of any country where the civil service is elected. This is why the commission hasn't been given the powers to bring in laws on its own, with out the aproval of the council and the European parliment.

        T

        • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @11:22AM (#12994907) Homepage
          The council consist of ministers from the local governments, who are appointed by the prime minister, who are elected by a majority of the parliament, whose members are elected by the people.

          The commission consists of people apointed by the local governments.

          In both cases the best we can hope for is a tripple indirect democracy.

          This is ok as long as the directly elected representives can propose and reject legislation. This is the case in the national parliaments, but in the EU parliament they cannot propose legislation, and the rules have deliberately made it very difficult for them to reject legislation. This is actually the first time the parliament have managed to get enough votes to reject a law.
    • Re:Victory! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      648 votes to 14.

      Just think about that for a moment.

      648 votes to 14. That's how utterly wrong this bill was. There can't be many bills which have taken such a beating in the history of the EU, can there?

      Now as European Citizens it is out duty to write to the 14 fuckwits who voted for the bill and ask them simply "Why?". Then make sure they loose at the next European Elections.
      • Re:Victory! (Score:5, Informative)

        by q.kontinuum (676242) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:15AM (#12993433)
        648 votes to 14. That's how utterly wrong this bill was.

        You got it badly wrong here. The voting shows, that it is an important issue and both sides try to play on safety. Both sides voted against the bill.

        The anti-patent side because they feard the bill without proposed amendmends.

        The pro-patent side because they feard the amendments.

        What this voting shows, is two things:
        1. It is an important issue, we need a clear bill on this issue!

        2. The amendmends would have turned the bill upside down, and since the amendments do nothing but drawing a firm line between software and not software it is very clear, that the pro-patent site wanted software-patents, also they always claimed they want to exclude software from patent law.

      • 648 votes to 14. That's how utterly wrong this bill was.

        648 MEPs all voted to reject the directive, but for how many different reasons? This number probably includes both supporters of software patents who feared an amended directive (for no good reason, I should add) and those who were angry at the Council for scrapping all the amendments already made by the Parliament back in 2003. I don't think it means 648 MEPs are decidedly opposed to software patents.

        Now as European Citizens it is out duty to

    • Re:Victory! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by neillewis (137544) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:10AM (#12993392)
      Yes, I would urge caution in seeing this as a victory for the anti-patent side. It is clear that the pro-patent side was willing to see this bill killed off rather that have the FFII's amendments voted into law.

      The patent lobbyists will be back, if not in the EU then in every national parliament. Congratulations to the FFII, in stopping this and putting the spotlight on the software patent issue. It's a huge achievement.But this is only the first battle.

      It's worth a lot of money to Microsoft and front organisations like the BSA to shut down competition using patents, hopefully with the issue now more widely known they will find it increasingly difficult to spread lies and buy off politicians.
    • Re:Victory! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:11AM (#12993394) Journal
      This is almost a total victory for the opponents of software patents.

      It's good news, but I wouldn't count on the enemies of technology giving up. Software patents will be introduced in the EU parliament again and again, until they get passed. Don't underestimate the patience of bureacrats and corporations.

      -jcr

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:23AM (#12993500)
        It's good news, but I wouldn't count on the enemies of technology giving up. Software patents will be introduced in the EU parliament again and again, until they get passed.

        Except that the Commission said in advance of today's vote that they wouldn't be attempting to push this through any further if it was voted down. In the absence of that, I believe there is a minimum 3 year gap before the same issue can be considered again.

      • Re:Victory! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kisak (524062) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:24AM (#12993511) Homepage Journal
        It will takes years before the EU commission can get a new software patents law to the EU parliament. The EU bureaucracy is slow (since it has to negotiate between so many different countries). They will probably try, but for now, the EU is safe for at least two-three years before the fight has to be fought again.
  • This is truely... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    a day to celebrate a major victory for freedom and innovation everywhere.
  • by Underholdning (758194) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:57AM (#12993254) Homepage Journal
    Ok so the current score is 1-0 to the good guys, but I'm pretty sure the game isn't over yet...
  • The score (Score:5, Funny)

    by RootsLINUX (854452) <rootslinux.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:58AM (#12993257) Homepage
    The so-called software patent directive, rejected by a 648-14 vote with 18 abstentions, would have given companies EU-wide patent protection for computerized inventions ranging from programs for complex CAT scanners to ABS car-brake systems.

    PWNED!!!
    • The so-called software patent directive, rejected by a 648-14 vote with 18 abstentions, would have given companies EU-wide patent protection for computerized inventions ranging from programs for complex CAT scanners to ABS car-brake systems.

      Holy crap! Does it mean companies will have to be satisfied with EU-wide patent protection only for computerized inventions ranging from complex CAT scanners to ABS car-brake systems instead? Now that seems like a real threat to European innovation; these companies

  • by LynXmaN (4317) * on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:58AM (#12993258) Homepage
    Congratulations to the http://www.ffii.org/ [ffii.org] and all the European citizens!

    Today we're a bit closer to freedom :)
  • Well done!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seti (74097) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:58AM (#12993262) Journal
    Congratulations to the FFII [ffii.org] for all their hard work and patience campaigning against the directive!!! These people deserve all the support they can get.

    For the time being I can rest assured that working as a programmer I do not have to watch my every statement.
  • Note (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:58AM (#12993270)

    Although this definitely counts as a victory, it's not the best of all possible outcomes.
    That would have been having the right amendments accepted, turning a bad law into a good one. (And having the law in place for all of the EU would have meant that it'd be impossible for the big software lobby to still push this through in individual countries, something which they're now likely to try.)

    The battle has been won, but the war is far from over.

    • Re:Note (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kaarlov (259057)
      Problem with amending a bad proposal to make it better is that you never know which amendments will pass and the outcome is very likely to be hard to interpret and illogical at best.

      Hopefully the next proposal which is going to happen sooner or later is better from the beginning. I hope that in next time, SME's and OSS-community are represented when the initial drafts for the directive are made.

      This time the rejection of the whole proposal was better than amending it into lawyers' wet dream.
  • by MoonFog (586818) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:58AM (#12993272)
    From the article on BBC [bbc.co.uk]:
    Responding to the rejection the European Commission said it would not draw up or submit any more versions of the original proposal. .

    Sounds like excellent news, but I doubt they'll give it up just yet, but this is a major setback (another one) for them.
  • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:59AM (#12993278) Homepage
    Read the comments by the proponents of software patents. They view this as a minor setback in their quest for software patents.

    This will be back for consideration, and sooner than most people realize.
  • Unfortunately... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Transcendent (204992) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:59AM (#12993281)
    The individual countries can still regulate their own software patents, and this measure only made it so there is no EU wide guideline for sw patents.

    What we really need is a directive to *ban* software patents on the EU level...
    • Re:Unfortunately^2 (Score:3, Informative)

      by metamatic (202216)
      And unfortunately, the GATT TRIPS agreements mean that the WTO will be forcing the individual signatory countries (such as the UK) to enact software patents.
    • Re:Unfortunately... (Score:5, Informative)

      by fredrikj (629833) * on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:58AM (#12993827) Homepage
      What we really need is a directive to *ban* software patents on the EU level...

      The European Patent Convention from the 80s already prohibits patents on "programs for computers". The catch is that the EPO doesn't follow it, although it should.
      • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:52AM (#12994380) Homepage Journal

        The European Patent Convention from the 80s already prohibits patents on "programs for computers". The catch is that the EPO doesn't follow it, although it should.

        Doesn't that provide a slam-dunk defense for anyone accused of infringing a software patent? It seems that if you were sued for infringement you could just point out to the court that the patent was erroneously issued. After a couple such cases, the precedent would be firmly established and future defendants would hardly have to do more than show up.

        Further, it would seem to deter holders of such invalid patents from pressing their claims, because pressing a claim would just get the patent invalidated. Since a valid but unenforceable patent is a (very) little bit more useful than an invalidated patent, holders would have to think twice about filing "harassment" suits that they know they'll lose.

        Obviously, it would be better if the EPO didn't issue those patents.

        • Doesn't that provide a slam-dunk defense for anyone accused of infringing a software patent? It seems that if you were sued for infringement you could just point out to the court that the patent was erroneously issued. After a couple such cases, the precedent would be firmly established and future defendants would hardly have to do more than show up.

          No [ssrn.com] :)
  • EU Press Release (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pablo El Vagabundo (775863) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:00AM (#12993282)


    Here is a link to the offical EU press Release:

    http://www2.europarl.eu.int/omk/sipade2?PUBREF=-// EP//TEXT+PRESS+DN-20050705-1+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&L=EN &LEVEL=2&NAV=X&LSTDOC=N#SECTION1 [eu.int]

    Some really good comments in there from some clued in and angry MEPs...

    Pablo
  • by rvw (755107)
    So it turns out the EU Parliament has power, and actually can stop the EU Commission. I wonder how this would have turned out if the EU constitution in France and Netherlands wasn't rejected. I think this was a good moment for EU Parliament to show their muscle.
  • Perhaps this will mean the banner [videolan.org] that has existed on VideoLAN's site for the last several months can finally go away... (previous slashdot coverage [slashdot.org])
  • I'm curious to know which effect petitions and campaigning has had on this decision. To an extent, it seems to be a bit of internal power struggle as well: "The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) says the rejection is a logical response to the Commission and Council's refusal to take parliament's will into consideration."
    • by AigariusDebian (721386) <aigarius@@@debian...org> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:09AM (#12993372) Homepage
      That is ONLY because FFII put it up like that and only because FFII alerted MEPs about the importance of this directive in the first place.
      If it weren't for FFII, this directive would be accepted two years ago. I've followed this debate from the first proposal of the Commision: if Hartmut Pilch wouldn't have been there - nobody would have even noticed or understood the implications of this directive.
      FFII has proven to be more mature and professional then the professional EU lobbies, that have been doing this for decades. I am so glad to be on this team and to see this historical victory.
  • Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by colonslashslash (762464) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:01AM (#12993303) Homepage
    The vote to scrap the bill was passed by a margin of 648 votes to 14, with 18 abstentions.

    That's a pretty big majority. To be honest, I expected the bill to slip through, or at least be a pretty close call either way based on what people have been telling me about the responses they have recieved from their MEPs.

    I realise this wasn't really the best outcome, but it's a damn sight better than seeing that brutal directive sneak it's way into EU law.

    • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sydb (176695)
      What have you been hearing from people about their MEPs? I wrote to the seven MEPs who represent my area (Scotland) and had replies from four (IIRC). All the replies were against the directive, one of them strongly (and optimistically) so.
    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by horza (87255) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:52AM (#12993772) Homepage
      To be honest, I expected the bill to slip through, or at least be a pretty close call either way based on what people have been telling me about the responses they have recieved from their MEPs.

      I have received replies from every MP I have written to.

      Dr Caroline Lucas (Green Party) - against the legislation, and mentions Richard Stallman and Alan Cox.

      Daniel Hannan (Conservative) - for the legislation, claiming problems in US are exagerated and there is little evidence of large companies using patents against smaller ones

      Nirj Deva Dl (Conservative) - for the legislation, though at the end states he will insist on a 3 year 'review' clause

      Edwards McMillan-Scott (Conservative) - for the legislation, repeating many points above. States that the legislation does not affect the development of open source software.

      Nigel Farage (Independence Party) - against the legislation, saying it benefits multi-nationals over the SMEs.

      Ashley Mote (independent candidate) - against the legislation. Strong words and even if the legislation passes he suggests battling it through UK parliament.

      Peter Skinner (Labour) - against the legislation. Very well informed as to EU parliamentary positions and he VERY clearly states why Labour is against software patents. Talks about Open Source, and even says he is supporting a UK campaign for a defense fund to protect small companies from litigation abuse by "dominant market players".

      So it appears from my responses that the Conservative party are for software patents, and everyone else against. Can anyone else who received replies from their MPs attach a summary below mine. It will provide a useful resource for which way to vote at the next European parliamentary elections.

      Phillip.
      • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mixel (723232)

        Tom Wise (UKIP) - against the legislation: "UKIP and its MEP's are fundamentally opposed to this proposal and will do all they can to prevent it coming into law. You should also address your comments to the British government, as they will also be involved in deciding a position"

        So please write to your MP too!
      • by steve_l (109732) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:11AM (#12994567) Homepage
        I contacted the lib dems and UKIP a few months back.

        lib dems: Email back about how they were very unhappy about the way the council was ignoring parliament, possibly planning to take a stance simply for the power-struggle between parliament and council, rather than for the merits of patents. Though I guess if they had been in favour of the legislation, they would have gone with it.

        UK Independence Party: a letter in the post (!) back complaining about how the EU was always interfering, it was our right to set our own patent laws, etc. I don't know if they were in favour or not; their ideology was in the way.
  • From the article:

    "You don't patent a mathematical formula, for software is merely a connection of a mathematical formula," said Michel Rocard, the former French Prime Minister who was in charge of steering the parliament debate.

    Rocard, a deputy for the Socialist group, said patents worth tens of billions of dollars (euros) were potentially at stake and, in terms of impact on businesses, the bill was the most important piece of legislation the assembly has ever dealt with.


    The patent system seems to work best when patents cover things. It seems to cause real damage when it covers such things as mathematical knowledge and software. Broader than just those two, though, is the application of patents to "systems" wherein the thing being patented is just a step of instructions. It is a far cry from a tangible item to a way to do something.

    Some 178 amendments to the bill were tabled by lawmakers before the vote. In the end parliament decided to vote down the law, fearing the amendments would dilute it and make it an inadequate compromise.

    "It was a mess. Better no directive than a bad directive," said Tony Robinson, spokesman for the Socialists.


    Unfortunately, that seems to mean that the topic may come up again, only in a more streamlined and possibly more palatable bill. It is nice that OSS advocates are crying foul against the patent system, but the real change will come when private businesses understand the threat posed by an all-encompassing patent system.
  • Videos of the vote (Score:5, Informative)

    by stere0 (526823) <slashdotmailNO@SPAMstereo.lu> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:02AM (#12993317) Homepage
    http://wiki.vrijschrift.org/EP050706 (CoralCache) [nyud.net] has the videos and transcripts.
  • We would like to play the Kevin Bacon's game with those 14. If they are found connected to Microsoft or other pro-patent monopolies - I suppose google bugsmear [userfriendly.org] could help. Same action if ignorance and/or apathy detected.
  • The black list? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EiZei (848645) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:06AM (#12993351)
    Anybody got a list of those MEPs who voted in favour of this? Just want to make sure there are no familiar names.

    Too bad the EU constitution was rejected, it would have given more power to parliament instead of the comission which is composed of appointed bureaucrats instead of elected representatives.
  • Mixed blessing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mjlner (609829) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:07AM (#12993355) Journal
    On the one hand, it is very good that US-style software patents have not been forced down our throats with this directive. On the other hand, individual member countries are still free to legalise software patents, if they want to. For the pro-patent lobby, this is a much better result than a possibly amended directive that would explicitly outlaw software patents in the EU. The anti-patent lobby still has much to do.

    One very good outcome of this is that the average European Joe Schmoe is now more aware of the issue and the MEPs are more aware of the sentiments within the industry. No more will the pro-patent lobby be able to sneak software patents in through the back door. That, in itself, is a huge victory.

    A huge thanks to everybody who helped defeat the directive, be it with a single short e-mail to an MEP or actively spending hundreds of hours on the issue.
    Thank you!

  • by Penguin (4919) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:13AM (#12993420) Homepage
    This isn't a "victory over patents", it just means that the situation isn't resolved.

    EPO (the European Patent Office) still have given out several thousands patents for software (and they continue to do so). These are not void until they are tried individually in court.

    Så, basically there could be three results:

    1. The directive was accepted with the possibility of software patents (which would be preferred for pro-patent-people)

    2. The directive was accepted without the possibility of software patents (which would be preferred for con-patent-people)

    3. The directive was dropped

    The latter is the case. So there are no general guidelines. Of course this still means that bunch of patents wouldn't hold in court, but that road is much longer than a general guideline preventing the patents in the first place.
  • by Martz (861209) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:20AM (#12993479)
    I sent an e-mail to my MP using http://www.writetothem.com/ [writetothem.com] and received a personalised letter on House of Commons letter header paper. My MP is Michael Jack and this is his response (typed out for your visal digestion):

    Dear Mr Palastanga,

    Thank you so much for your email of 21 June and for the care that you have taken to lay out in clear terms your concerns about the application of patent law within the European Union to software.

    The picture you paint has a parallel. In, for example, the radio telecommunications business there are numerous examples of multinational companies who have attempted to control the development of new standards in the industry to the detriment of small innovative European based companies who, as you rightly observe, are the engine rooms of new concepts and technologies.

    I will certainly make representations on your behalf both at a national and European level to alert key decision makers to your concerns and seek their assurances that in future work in this area they will fully reflect upon the very important points you raise in your email. As soon I as I have further news I will, of course, write to you again.

    Yours sincerely

    The Rt Hon Michael Jack MP

    OK, sure, I didn't personally stop the directive - but I have a little faith restored in politics now I have had a personal response from a real MP. Well done to all of the FOSS projects, developers and end users who have helped raise awareness about Software Patents.

    WOO HOO!
  • FFII press release (Score:5, Informative)

    by infolib (618234) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:20AM (#12993481)
    The FFII server is horribly overloaded at the moment, so here's their press release. (Slightly edited for anti-lameness) You can get info on todays vote at http://wiki.ffii.org/PrReject050706En [ffii.org] once it gets back up.

    From jmaebe ffii.org Wed Jul 6 15:15:16 2005
    Date: Wed, 06 Jul 2005 13:03:50 +0200
    From: Jonas Maebe
    To: news ffii.org
    Subject: [ffii] European Parliament says no to software patents, yes to innovation

    **European Parliament says no to software patents, yes to innovation**

    Strasbourg, 6 July 2005 -- The European Parliament today decided by a large majority to reject the software patents directive. This rejection was the logical answer to the Commission's refusal to restart the legislative process in February and the Council's unwillingness to engage in any kind of dialogue with the Parliament. The FFII congratulates the European Parliament on its clear "no" to bad legislative proposals and procedures.

    This is a great victory for those who have campaigned to ensure that European innovation and competitiveness is protected from the threat of software and business process patents. It marks the end of this attempt by the European Commission to codify into law the US-style practice of the European Patent Office. We believe that the Parliament's work, in particular the 21 compromise amendments, provides a good basis on which future legislative projects can build.

    Rejection provides breathing space for new initiatives based on all the knowledge gained during the last five years. All institutions are now fully aware of the concerns of all stakeholders. However, the fact that the Council Common Position needs 21 amendments in order to be transformed into a coherent piece of legislation indicates that the text is simply not ready to enter the Conciliation between Parliament, Commission and Council. We hope the Commission and Council will at least respond to the concerns raised by Parliament the next time, in order to avoid this sort of backlash in the future.

    Jonas Maebe, FFII Board Member, comments on the outcome of today's vote:

    "This result clearly shows that thorough analysis, genuinely concerned citizens and factual information have more impact than free ice-cream, boatloads of hired lobbyists and outsourcing threats. I hope this turn of events can give people new faith in the European decision making process. I also hope that it will encourage the Council and Commission to model after the European Parliament in terms of transparency and the ability of stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process irrespective of their size."

    The FFII wishes to thank all those people who have taken the time to contact their representatives. We also thank the numerous volunteers who have so generously given their time and energy. This is your victory as well as the Parliament's.

    Background Information

    Free ice-cream for patentability
    http://wiki.ffii.org/CampIcecream050601En [ffii.org]

    Software patent lobbyists add boats to their arsenal
    http://lists.ffii.org/pipermail/news/2005-July/000 297.html [ffii.org]

    Pictures of the boating
    http://gallery.ffii.org/Strasbourg050705 [ffii.org]

    Permanent link to this press release
    http://wiki.ffii.org/PrReject050706En [ffii.org]

    Contact Information

    Hartmut Pilch and Holger Blasum
    FFII Munich Office
    info@ffii.org
    ++49-89-18979927

    Rufus Pollock
    FFII UK
    rufus.pollock@ffii.org.uk
    +44-7795-176976

    Jonas Maebe
    FFII BE
    jmaebe@ffii.org
    +32-485-369645

    Dieter Van Uytvanck
    FFII BE
    dietvu@village.uunet.be
    +32-499-167010

    About FFII -- http://www.ffii.org/ [ffii.org]

    The Foundation fo
  • by file-exists-p (681756) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:22AM (#12993489)

    The EPO (European Patent Office) has granted patents on algorithms for years, despite the fact that they are illegal under the current European legislation [european-p...office.org]. And it seems that the fight will go on there (cf. this article [bloomberg.com]).

    However, considering today's vote, the patent offices can not anymore claim that their interpretation of the law have a political backup.

    --
    Go Debian!
  • by el_womble (779715) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:26AM (#12993526) Homepage
    I get the feeling this is a war that will continue for as long as American corporations have software patents. Can this rulling be used to restart the debate in the US? What is the point of patents if they can only be enforced in one market (all be it a VERY large market)?
  • Votes against (Score:3, Insightful)

    by noims (23711) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:28AM (#12993547) Homepage
    I haven't seen a list of MEPs who voted against striking it down, or those who abstained.

    If anyone has a list it would certainly be useful when the next elections roll around.

    Cheers,
    Noims.
  • by haeger (85819) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:47AM (#12993713)
    I sent a few letters to my representatives and now I'd like to check out if they are true to their word or not. Did they vote the way they said they would.
    I searched some on the webpage but couldn't find any list on this.
    Anyone know where I can find it so that I decide on who will get my vote next time?

    .haeger

  • Here is the slightly worrying meat of the matter (from TFA):

    Some 178 amendments to the bill were tabled by lawmakers before the vote. In the end parliament decided to vote down the law, fearing the amendments would dilute it and make it an inadequate compromise. "It was a mess. Better no directive than a bad directive," said Tony Robinson, spokesman for the Socialists. EICTA, a group representing 10,000 companies including giants such as Nokia and Alcatel SA which had been lobbying for the bill, said the decision to scrap it was wise, given the large number of amendments that threatened to severely narrow the scope of the legislation.

    So it seems that the bill was not voted down because the anti-SWPAT people were able to persuade the voters of the rightness of their cause, but that it was spammed with amendments until it collapsed under its own weight.

    Still a good thing, of course, but it would have been nicer to have this stupid idea explicitly faced down.

  • They won't give up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:10AM (#12993925) Homepage
    I just can't imagine them giving up so soon. As has been stated even before this vote, they will go after more local governments next. Following that, what is to stop them from trying it again later? (Is there some rule that says they can't?)

    As for the US needing patent reform? Yeah, it's pretty clear to "us" from our perspective, but the average joe doesn't care one way or the other but the moment they hear "they are trying to stop us from patenting things" the public will conjure up images of Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison tinkering in their home laboratories and think how un-American it would be to prevent people from patenting stuff. It has to be shown how it hurts them before the public will care about this and telling them "hey, you could have had much cooler and cheaper stuff..." it's a particularly effective argument since it's essentially viewed as speculation rather than fact.

    It's easier to see in Europe what the potential harm to their market would be -- the U.S.'s head start in patent portfolios would make the sting pretty obvious.

    So then I wonder, what angle or spin would be most effective against the general public to help them understand the need for patent reform in the U.S.?
  • But who voted YES? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pioni (694427) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:13AM (#12993957)
    I'd like to know the names of those few who voted YES.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:23AM (#12994052)
    The more reinforcement from lots of people that software patents are a bad thing, the better. And apart from their salaries and pensions etc, I'm sure they feel generally unloved.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @12:28PM (#12995614)
    Now that this directive has been defeated, now is the time to write congress and get them to think - if the EU has voted against this, perhaps it's time they take alook at our own system and engage in reform.

    Especially if presented as a case for helping small businesses (the engine that drives the economy) it seems like at least a few people in congress would be willing to champion a second look at the mess we have today, when presented with some rational arguments why they might want to roll back the power of software patents as they stand.

    This further helps the EU as well, as it turns the battle into one of multiple fronts instead of just letting pro-patent people focus on the EU until they break.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:16PM (#12996075)
    Long live innovation through competition - not litigation.

    I produce roughly 20000-25000 lines of code every 4-5 months, and I hate the thought that I can be accused of stealing someone elses idea every time I write 10-20 lines code - in fact it insults me. Lets hope europe will some day move to illigalize software patent on a national level. I want fredom to develop thank you! Not this thing the pro-patent politicians call "protection". It only protects big companies with big patentportfolios from having to compete by way of building the best products.
  • by fadden (469243) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:27PM (#12996189) Homepage
    Now we Americans will have to compete against Europeans with technology instead of lawyers.

    So close! We almost had them!
  • Someone posted the warning that we should be ever vigilant, because big corps and all the pro-swpat cronies will not rest untill they get what they want, and that they would try other means if this directive failed.

    Well, gues what: the FIRST SIGNS are already there. Here is a comment I stumbled upon already:

    "During the debate on Tuesday, Commissioner Joaquín ALMUNIA told MEPs: "Should you decide to reject the common position, the Commission will not submit a new proposal." Attention now moves to the proposed directive for a Community patent, currently in discussion in the Council, mentioned by a number of MEPs as the appropriate legislative instrument to address the issue of software patentability."

    So, now, it's not the CII anymore, but something weasily called the 'community patent'. Let's be very watchful on these sudden outbursts of 'helpful' patentreforms, and deny anyone to amend something to the point that it becomes a second software patent directive.

"If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?" -- Lily Tomlin

Working...